Published July 19, 2017 at 11:05
Adrian Smith, a father-of-three from Bacup, ran a marathon in the heat of the Middle East in May to support families affected by war and persecution in the Middle East.
Adrian, 56, the principal planning officer for Rossendale Borough Council had previously visited Iraq and saw for himself the suffering faced by families following the invasion of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), which forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Here is his account of the fundraising marathon in Lebanon to raise money for Open Doors, a charity that supports Christians who have been persecuted for their faith, and provides aid to displaced families in Syria and Iraq. He has so far raised £6,700 of his £10,000 target.
Saturday, May, 13
Got to Heathrow Airport and I haven’t forgotten anything! Is this real? I’m glad to be travelling out with Katie from Fareham who I have met briefly before. After over an hour at customs at Beirut Airport (including chatting with a Palestinian refugee in the queue) we see a “Peace, love, run” sign. Not for our run but says it all.
Sunday, May 14
We catch the end of a church service in Arabic then we go to spend time with over 100 Syrian refugee children for the afternoon. The water game ends with a soaking; they love shoulder rides! They’re like children anywhere but you can see the pain in some of their eyes. Many live in plastic sheet covered tents and have been so traumatised by what they have seen.
Monday, May 15
Heard about what the church we are visiting is doing to help refugees. Saw the school in operation; over 300 children in shifts. There was a medical clinic; dentistry; packing of food parcels and much more. They help despite there being tensions in Lebanon about the high number of Syrian refugees the country is struggling to cope with. Church members who are doctors visit the camps to help with basic health care and medicine. This is supplemented by voluntary doctors and dentists visiting to hold clinics. While we were there volunteers from Brazil offered free support. We can see Syria from the church roof.
In the afternoon we visit two refugee families and hear the women we meet talk of how their husbands were imprisoned when they returned to claim their wages; of snow dripping through the ceiling and being unable to afford heating; of not being able to afford dentures and other necessities.
Tuesday, May 16
Last night came down to Byblos on the Med; one of the oldest cities in the world. Short practice run on part of the course. It’s going to be a challenge with hills galore!
In the evening three Syrian pastors came and told tales of renewed faith, full churches, practical help for the displaced but also people losing hope, especially the young. And personal stories of great sacrifice and death threats.
Wednesday, May 17
Preparation; video of dangers of dehydration. Scary! Lovely walk round old town; many generations of history. Life’s short; what’s my legacy?
Thursday, May 18
Up at 4am to start the run at 6am. I have two circuits of 13 miles to do downhill 485m and up 485m on each circuit. Beyond 13 miles and a desperately needed to go to the loo. The heat is getting into the mid 20’s and my body is hurting. Encouraged by a couple of walkers singing I regain some pace. Mind over matter! I walk bits and run others, the last few miles are hard but make the finishing line in four hours 50 minutes and 19 seconds. I finished! Strange the run’s over but worth it to raise funds and bring focus to those who so need it.
Friday, May 19
A day reflecting and relaxing, then saying goodbyes.
Saturday, May 20
Minibus to Beirut airport. Then it’s Katie and I onto our Middle Eastern Airlines flight back to Heathrow. Looking out of the plane window saying goodbye, to Lebanon, I feel quite overwhelmed, so much to take in and absorb. The world’s a small place with so many needs I just want to make a difference.
To help Adrian meet his £10,000 target visit www.justgiving.com/adriansmith60